It’s the end of the quarter for many college students like me. Some of us choose to fly home if we are from out of state. Others go exploring and even travel out of the country. I am one of those rare students who is blessed to go to school only 20 minutes from my house.
A few weeks before break, I decided to sign up for a 5-day Ignatian silent retreat hosted by the very place I worked, that is Campus Ministry. Our director of retreats, Victor was a pivotal influence in impacting my decision to go.
The 5-day Ignatian silent retreat was inspired by the Ignatian examen methods, started by St. Ignatius of Loyola. As a Jesuit college student, I was exposed to the knowledge of Ignatian spirituality when I took a class last quarter taught by a Jesuit priest. The retreat was an opportunity for me to put all of what I learned in the previous quarter.
After finals, a group of fellow students and I headed up to the peaceful San Damiano Retreat Center located one hour away Santa Clara, in Danville. Before going on the retreat, I was unsure if I would be able to take my wheelchair, due to the steep hills that make it impossible for my wheelchair to withstand. . However, everything worked out, and some fellow students and I got to ride on the big wheelchair accessible bus.
Around 4:45pm, my group and I arrived at the retreat center where we were greeted by our director and a nice landscape of trees, flowers, decorative stones, and rocks embedded near an adobe style residential rooms. I stayed with my roommate for one night, and then she moved out the next day, as we were supposed to be alone during the retreat. The first day we went over the logistics and the retreat schedule. Then, we had dinner, and afterwards, were assigned spiritual directors, where we would meet for each day in the next 5 days.
Everyday, my group and I had a different talk and discussion. Then we broke out on our own to do some quiet reflecting. As I walked by myself among the trees, plants and flowers in the garden, I experienced a overwhelming sense of peace and quietness for the first time in my life.
With so much noise and busyness in the present reality, it is easy to forget that God is always there for me in the stillness. He is waiting for me to answer His will, which requires a deep discernment of what I want for myself in terms of self care and more nourishment for my spiritual life.
As I sat down on the bench all 5 days, scribbling away in my journal, God stirred my heart and I was able to “hear” him clearly. He moved my soul and told me He would be there for me. As I listened to the sounds of the water trickling from the fountain, God was present and I knew everything was going to be okay. From meeting with my spiritual director, to serving as a lector on one of the days, to embracing the beauty of silence, I became much closer to God, and came back to the retreat with my renewed self. I am thankful for this gift of silence and a privilege to admire the beauty of God’s creation.